Thursday, March 03, 2016

Chinese Students and Race

Yesterday I was trying to teach about economic rent. I said, "There are millions of actors in the world. Why does Will Smith get $20 million for a movie? If the producers wanted to hire an actor, they could get one for much, much less. I would go talk to them and say, 'I'll take that part for a couple thousand dollars and unlimited access to the snack table.'" A student said in a tone indicating that I have a mental problem, "Will Smith is black."

Ah, Chinese students and their completely innocent racism. "You can't possibly do the same job as Will Smith because you aren't the same race that he is." While that might be true for Smith's roles in Ali or The Pursuit of Happyness, I don't know that that applies to all Will Smith roles.

Last year a student began her presentation on Milton Friedman by asking, "Does anyone know where Milton Friedman was from?" No one answered, so I said, "Brooklyn." She said, "No, he was a Jew." She then turned to the white board and wrote "JEW." Later in the year, the same student gave another presentation where she said white people shouldn't complain about unpaid internships because they are all rich. We had a lot of discussions about appropriate race-based comments in that class.

Again this year, in a presentation on Milton Friedman, a student stressed his status as a Jew. Like he was some sort of gonzo Zionist or something. I don't know that any work of Milton Friedman's is in any way dependent on his Jewish heritage. Why do these students keep bringing it up? And what kind of Chinese-language sources are they reading if this is the main point they wish to make in their class presentations?

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